Recently, I watched an episode of House of Lies, which featured known actor and activist Matt Damon. In the episode, he enlists the help of expert consultant Marty Kaan, played by Don Cheadle, to, in his words, “give him a cause about the size of Clooney’s cause, only with bigger tits… I wanna be on that podium next year pissing down all over his face”. Essentially, Matt is looking for the consulting agency to boost his notoriety in order to win awards and acclaim, besting his rival, George Clooney.
The episode ends with an overblown, but somehow touching PSA about his “cause”, egotistically named Matt Damon’s Children.org.
Although the caricature he plays paints the picture that Matt Damon is an arrogant, foul-mouthed, intolerable human being, only pretending to care about people and the world at large, in reality, he is quite the opposite.
Matt Damon’s Children.org may be fictional, but Water.org started by co-founders Gary White and Matt Damon certainly is the real deal. I am impressed not only by the grace with which the actor handles his celebrity, but by the way he uses the media to promote his cause.
How Water.org Caught My Eye
- Social Media Use
I first learned of Water.org from the popular Youtube vlogging family TheShaytards, as Matt Damon made a brief appearance in one of their videos. Since some prominent vloggers can receive as many as 600,000 to 1,000,000 viewers per video, getting your voice out through this platform can be a smart way to raise awareness for your cause.
This may seem like a no-brainer to those of us, who watch YouTube, or are avid consumers of social media, but to some, older approaches to advertising are the only way to go. Don’t get me wrong, placing your advertisement on the side of a bus, or paying for a radio spot works, but, if it’s appropriate for your business, and you’re aware of how to broadcast your message wisely and in an effective way, I recommend ALSO using sites like YouTube.
“It’s estimated that the average time spent online by Canadians is nearly 75 hours a month, or about 2.5 hours a day.” In a world where individuals are spending large portions of their time online many are likely to learn about a company, product, or cause through their online presence, making it crucial that a company’s social media plan is done correctly. Their message must be clear, polished, and visually stimulating.
Water.org’s website is both simple, and easy to use. All of the information one could be looking for is there, such as, what they are about, how to give back, and the measures their organization is implementing to make change. They also include educational material and resources for children: Water.org’s Lesson Plans for K-12th Graders, an add on that both surprised and pleased this writer.
2. Correct Use / Understanding of Humour
Humour can be used as a powerful tool, it can be a great way to spread your message if done correctly. Using humour does not mean poking fun, or making light of an important issue. Using humour can mean knowing how to be able to laugh at oneself, or how to make a brand more approachable. Done correctly, using humour can reach wider audiences perhaps previously thought unreachable.
A great example of not handling humour in the correct fashion can be found in the Greenpeace controversy, with the now infamous Mister Splashy Pants story. I’ve linked both the Wikipedia article describing the event and the hilariously insightful TedTalks discussion with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian about said controversy in this paragraph. Trust me, it is well worth the read and watch.
Now, let us take a look at how Water.org handled their own online social media campaign. Linked here is the advert from a few years back for their “Toilet Strike”, which featured many famous YouTuber’s promoting Water.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36LfQ2xDJFA.
My first impression, the “Toilet Strike” is not meant to be taken seriously. It would be improbable, no impossible for someone to not use the washroom as we all need to expel our waste at some point. However, the premise of one not going to the washroom until everyone else has clean drinking water is irregular and the light hearted mood created in the video can make one stop and pay attention, even if it is to only give support to their favourite YouTube stars. The video is similar in its satirical nature to, The Daily Show, seemingly a little over the top at first glance, but the real message, the “real news” remains within the obvious humour.
3. Clear Message
Bring clean water and sanitation to the world = will make the world a better place.
4. A Cause ‘We’ The Public Can Support
No one will argue that water is not essential to life, or that everyone should not have access to clean drinking water. The message is simple. It is one everyone can understand, and the effects are widespread. It is one of those solutions that, when implemented, can have a rippling effect in other global issues as well.
Water.org does not only help people, their work has positive environmental effects as well. An example of this can be seen below in the picture and description which follows describing a new toilet system installed in India.
As described by Water.org’s partner, SCOPE, this is a model of an Integrated Sustainable Sanitation structure, wherein Urine Diversion Dehydration (UDD) toilet is attached to a biogas plant. The way it works in detail is described below:
- Urine is collected and stored in a separate chamber
- Wash water from toilet is collected separately, and allowed to fall through a Grey Water filtering chamber
- Excreta is channeled into the biogas tank (2 Cu.m capacity)
- The filtered grey water flows into the urine chamber, dilutes the urine, and passes into kitchen garden (undiluted urine should not be applied to plants)
- And finally, slurry is allowed to fall in two dry-bed chambers and over a period of time (6-8 months), slurry becomes manure and can be applied over crops for yielding more production
This type of innovative model (where all the waste from human is regenerated and reused) is first of its kind in India.
I’m not saying this is perfect example of how to use advertising and marketing, and that all NGO’s should following their lead – only that I was impressed, and made note of what they did that impressed me. In a world of over-saturation and stimulation, having your voice heard above the noise can be extremely difficult, so I say, well done.
Using what appears to be a well-structured marketing plan, they successfully used innovation, a variety of media platforms, and an understanding of human behaviour and emotion to propel their message and cause in a way that caught my eye and made me take notice.
I wish Water.org every success as they continue their efforts in bringing clean water and sanitation to the world!